This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: October 8th, Danny Murtaugh

Five former Pirates born on this date, including one who started as a player and then became a manager.

Long-time Pirates manager Danny Murtaugh was born on this date in 1917. He started his baseball career as a player, spending nine seasons in the majors between 1941 and 1951. He made his debut with the Philadelphia Phillies as a 23-year-old second baseman and led the league in stolen bases, despite hitting .219 and playing only 85 games. He was a regular for the 1942-43 seasons, but like many players from that era, he missed time due to serving his country during WWII. He returned for the 1946 season and spent most of that year and the next in the minors. The Pirates acquired him from the Boston Braves in November of 1947 as part of a five-player trade.

While with the Pirates, Murtaugh hit .290 with 71 RBIs as the everyday second baseman in 1948. He led the league in assists, putouts and double plays for second basemen. He impressed the baseball writers, finishing ninth in the MVP voting. The following season he struggled with the bat, hitting just .203 in 75 games. He returned to form in 1950, batting a career high .294, but slumped again in 1951 hitting just .199 in 77 games. That would be the end of his big league playing career. He spent the next two seasons as a player-manager for the New Orleans Pelicans, a Double-A affiliate for the Pirates. Murtaugh retired with a .254 Major League average over 767 games.

In 1954, Murtaugh spent his first season strictly as a manager, staying with New Orleans. The following season he was promoted to their Triple-A affiliate in Charleston. In 1956 he began serving as a coach for the Pirates and held that job until taking over the Major League managing position from Bobby Bragan, who was fired on August 3, 1957. The Pirates went 26-25 under Murtaugh to finish the season, despite starting the year 36-67 under Bragan. In his first full season as a manager in 1958, the Pirates had their first winning season since 1948. They went 84-70, good for a second place finish. After slipping a little in 1959 down to 78 wins, the 1960 Pirates won the NL crown for the first time since 1927.

The 1960 Pirates brought the city of Pittsburgh its first World Series crown in 35 seasons. For Murtaugh, he was just beginning to cement his place in team history. He retired from managing following the 1964 season due to health problems, but remained in a front office role with the team. He managed again for 78 games in 1967, following the firing of his replacement, Harry Walker. He returned to the front office for the next two years. In 1970, Murtaugh again went back down to the field and led the Pirates to an NL East crown. The following year he went one step further, taking the team to the World Series, where he became the only manager to win two World Series titles with the Pirates.

Murtaugh stepped down again after the 1971 season. He returned for a fourth stint at the end of 1973 and led the Pirates to two more NL East crowns in 1974 and 1975, giving him five first place finishes in 12 full seasons on the Pirates bench. He retired for the last time following the 1976 season and passed away in December of that same year. The Pirates retired his #40 jersey during Opening Day in 1977. Murtaugh finished with a 1,115-950 record as a manager. He ranks second in team history in wins to Fred Clarke, and only Clarke has managed more games and seasons for the team.

Other Players Born on This Date

Robbie Erlin, pitcher for the 2020 Pirates. Erlin was a minor league free agent signing prior to the 2020 season. He pitched just two games, allowing two runs in 3.1 innings. He was placed on waiver in early August, where he was picked up by the Atlanta Braves. Erlin had an 8.49 ERA in 23.1 innings with the Braves before being released. He was originally drafted in the third round in 2009 by the Texas Rangers. He was traded to the San Diego Padres in 2011 and made his Major League debut in 2013. With the Padres in six seasons, he went 13-20, 4.57 in 313 innings, making 38 starts and 68 relief appearances.

Ed Kirkpatrick, utility player from the 1974-77 Pirates. He played six different positions during his time in Pittsburgh, while hitting .236 in 309 games. He made a 16-year career out of versatility, batting .238 in 1,311 games. The only positions he didn’t play in his career were shortstop and pitcher. The bulk off his success came with the Kansas City Royals, where he posted a 9.3 WAR in five seasons. In his other seven seasons, he had a -1.2 WAR. The Pirates acquired Kirkpatrick from the Royals in December of 1973 in a five-player deal that included Nelson Briles. Most of his time with the Pirates was spent at first base, though he played off of the bench even more often. His splits during the 1974 season were very odd. When he started games, the Pirates went 40-26. When he came off the bench, they went 15-35. They were almost as extreme in 1975, going 16-8 as a starter, 24-41 as a bench player. That would have been an interesting footnote, had he not had the same results in 1976, with a 19-6 record as a starter, while the team went 22-36 in his bench appearances. In his four seasons in Pittsburgh, the Pirates were 77-42 when he started and 68-122 when he came off the bench. In June of 1977, he was traded to the Texas Rangers even up for Jim Fregosi.

George Metkovich, outfielder/first baseman for the 1951-53 Pirates. In 271 games over those three seasons, he batted .276, with 88 RBIs and 97 runs scored. Metkovich played a total of 1,055 games over ten seasons in the majors, seeing his most time during the 1943-46 seasons while many MLB players were off serving in WWII. He hit a career high .293 in 120 games for the 1951 Pirates, then received mild MVP support for his 1952 season, when he set a career high with a .726 OPS. The Pirates acquired him as a Rule 5 pick after the 1950 season, which he spent with Oakland of the Pacific Coast League. Early in 1953, he was part of the Ralph Kiner trade with the Chicago Cubs, which saw four players go to Chicago and six players (and a lot of cash) return to the Pirates. Metkovich played a total of 19 seasons in pro ball, debuting in 1939 at 18 years old. His last four years of playing were spent in the minors. He had over 2,300 hits as a pro.

Tom Colcolough, pitcher for the 1893-95 Pirates. He went 16-11 for his hometown Charleston Seagulls of the Southern Association, prior to making his Major League debut on August 1, 1893 for the Pirates. Colcolough went 1-0, 4.12 in eight games (three starts) during that rookie season. His results were good despite bouts of extreme wildness, leading to a 32-7 BB/SO ratio in 43.2 innings. The next season, offense was up across the league due to the pitching distance being moved back ten feet to it’s current distance. As a result, Colcolough was hit hard. He made 14 starts and nine relief appearances, posting a 7.23 ERA. He was still wild and not much of a strikeout pitcher, issuing 72 walks, with just 29 strikeouts to his credit. Despite all those numbers, he still managed to finish with an 8-5 record, thanks to strong run support from a big Pirates offense. Cocolough didn’t last long during the 1895 season. After a poor pitching performance on June 1st, he was back in the minors. His only other big league experience was 14 games for the 1899 New York Giants. He finished 10-8, 6.55 in 38 games for the Pirates, 23 as a starter. He debuted in pro ball in 1892 at 21 years old and retired shortly after he time with the Giants.